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The Problem with Working Managers

disaster entreprenuer estimator fire damage junior leaders management management training project manager restoration techician Jun 16, 2023

From the desk of Klark Brown (no AI was used in the creation of this article.)

Have you ever thought about  WORKING MANAGERS?


In most all trades, and ours not excluded, there is a need for managers, supervisors, and leads to help move projects along. Any owner or leader knows that delegating tasks to middle management is the key to growth and buying back your time. 


A major issue we see in this structure is twofold. 

  1. We elevate/ promote people without really providing them with the support, tools, and expectations of what they are in the new position to do.
    Read our blog about this particular topic
    Things Break In The Middle.
  2. The limitation on time between the two titles (working/ manager) causes a conflict and drives negative results. 
    In today’s blog, we want to open conversation so that we might be more intentional with these positions and ultimately create better managers and get incredible results. 


Here is a common story and path:
We grow. Our brand flourishes. We develop great relationships. The phones ring steadily now. All great measurables.

As this occurs, the owner or other managers find themselves working MORE and MORE on the jobs, fighting fires, etc.

We have a few great lead technicians or project managers that simply shine. They show up, do well and the customers love them. We then elect to promote them to the next level (often multiple levels). This allows the owner/ leader to do more of the business and put attention elsewhere. This is really clear and has a natural progression.

What we see more and more often are the holes that this creates in their last position causing the morale struggles that we outline in our other blog.
But what we really do is create a larger issue of not fully developing the position, train the new manager and then of course get busy and hope that ON THE JOB training will be enough. 

That is seldom accurate or reality. 

We now have a strong staff member that has strong hopes that they are finally climbing the ladder, quite possibly making more and doing new things. 


Working managers have leadership responsibilities and manage people, but they also have direct responsibility for delivering the company’s products and services. In that scenario, the “leadership” part of their role nearly always gets pushed aside.

Over the years, clients have given a variety of reasons why they need working managers. There are certainly strong truths to that. 

 Some claim they haven’t grown “big enough” yet or just always do “whatever it takes” to get the job done. They haven’t needed leaders before, so it makes sense to them to just add a few people's responsibilities to someone’s job.

Managing people is hard. 

Effective leaders need to devote time to providing support and accountability to their people for optimal team health and performance. When leaders also serve as “doers” in the organization, they can’t devote that necessary energy to their teams. Instead, they spend 80% of their time working at the lowest level of their assigned duties.

We coach our clients through this important trap to make sure jobs are covered and clients’ needs are met, but we also make sure that the promoted individual stays and stops the expensive revolving door of turnover. That can make short-term wins become mid and long-term disasters. 



Building a business with a lean structure and limiting overhead is always a great strategic approach. But we need to be more focused on the long term and ignore the fear of today’s cost.

A growing business should be more than capable to have a well-balanced management-to-team ratio. Creating infrastructure deficiencies with underdeveloped front-line teams is a huge risk and one that doesn’t show itself too quickly or as obviously. 

I look at a business like an airplane. It needs to be strong and sturdy to fly as far as my mind is envisioning. We cannot put duct tape on the wings, hire underskilled staff and carry only enough field to get to the next airport. That’s an uncomfortable ride for staff and customers.
Often times the real stress on payroll is not from what salaries are or the number of people you employ, but more about whether we charging the right amount, whether are we training properly, and are our collections/cash flow on point. This is where I urge you to stop thinking about what insurance "ALLOWS". That is a business killer. Plus it will burn you out!

Our team works on the operational structure and efficiencies to let you and your team do what you have learned to do so well. 



  1. Lack of clarity or confusion about roles and responsibilities
    The blur between leading and doing makes it harder for leaders to delegate tasks. Many feel they should still complete certain responsibilities as part of their frontline work. This also makes it harder for their team to anticipate who should complete a task.
  2. Effective and Easy Management Skills
    Perform periodic 1:1 evaluations with your managers and provide tools to help them fit better into the role where the organization will best be served. Find areas of improvement and growth to empower your team. 
  3. Employee engagement suffers and turnover increases
    What happens when a leader cannot devote time to employee development? Engagement suffers, morale plummets, and before long you start to see team attrition.




Simply agree to take a serious and focused look at your positions and make sure you are not unfairly expecting staff to do one thing when they are simply doing all they know. They cannot be managers and workers at the same time that they have always had. Allow them to better manage the new and existing team to better results. 


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